Feeling ill? Need an operation but bored with your local hospital?
The Department of Health now have a special marketing advice agency,
the Insight Unit, to help hospitals sell
their services. The NHS chief executive, Nigel Crisp, proclaimed
that foundation trusts (SchNEWS
404) should adopt the same marketing techniques as Tesco
in their bids to win customers in the new choice-based NHS market.
Get ready to be treated like a tin of cheap beans
cards for the accident prone?
Of course its dressed up as patient choice, but this choice
comes by opening the ward doors to more and more private companies
who want to make a fast buck out of your illness. The first step
to privatisation is Choose and Book: GPs will offer
patients a choice of four different providers for their
treatment via a desktop computer system, at least one of which has
to be private. Luckily things could take a while as the IT contractors
have made such a monumental screw-up of it (see SchNEWS
481) that this creeping privatisation, is, er, creeping
Next up is the new NHS funding system Payment by Results.
This involves hospitals being paid by primary care trusts for the
work they actually do. A recent Audit Commission report said that
the payment-by-results internal accounting system had turned out
to be a more complex, time-consuming and challenging process
than the NHS expected and could bring real dangers.
Also on the list are independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs)
who will be paid on average 40% more than NHS quacks, enabling them
to cream off £3bn of taxpayers money. At present the
DOH does not require the same level of training for doctors working
in ISTCs, and six surgeons working for the private sector on NHS
cases have already been suspended for what are termed serious
Meanwhile Primary Care Trusts continue to be privatised. Oxfordshire
PCT will be the first in the country to be fully flogged off. Bidders
include Group 4 (SchNEWS firm of the week), BUPA and the US
health insurance company United Health. Maybe this is their reward
for trying to block South African company Netcare taking over the
countys eye operations. Since Oxford already had a well-respected
NHS eye hospital, the Primary Trust refused to sign the contract
with Netcare until it was bullied by health supremos into doing
so. A management consultants report kept secret until after
the contract was signed said the NHS hospital might be destabilised
by the deal, as Netcare would cream off the more simple operations
the hospital traditionally supplied, starving it of money (and payment
by results), training opportunities and result in poorer services
However, the consultants did come up with some brilliant recommendations
for sorting these problems: public sector health staff could gain
experience working with Netcare for free; and the NHS should hawk
surplus services in Wales and Scotland! Since the deal was done,
Netcares Medical Director, Dinesh Verma, has resigned over
patient safety concerns in its mobile surgical treatment centres.
Then theres the threat of closing failing NHS hospitals that
cant attract enough paying customers. Not surprising
really - as patients are coerced to go private, private companies
then cherry-pick the easier, more lucrative work. Will we run out
of patience before they run out of patients?
Government expenditure on the NHS is projected to rise an extra
£20bn by 2008, so wheres the money going? Well, the
last time there was a comparable increase in spending most of it
went to pay the costs of the internal market reforms. Once again,
most of the new money is going to foot the bills for bringing in
the private sector. Cash that should be spent on frontline care
will be diverted to making and monitoring hundreds of thousands
of contracts, billing for every treatment and paying for accounting,
auditing, legal services and advertising - not to mention shareholders
profits. As Dr Jacky Davis a consultant radiologist in London pointed
out We are not deceived by the rhetoric about patient choice
and predict that patients may lose the one choice that is important
- a good comprehensive local hospital. In a system where every part
of the business must generate a surplus, patients will come second
to profits. When the dictates of the market replace the public service
ethos patients will suffer. The private sector will not support
the NHS but compete with it, and NHS units and hospitals that cannot
compete will close.
* Check www.keepournhspublic.com
for more on fighting hospital privatisation.
CRAP ARREST OF THE WEEK
For questioning authority...
A founding member of a South African Residents Association
was arrested and demonised by the associations leaders
for daring to confront them about a lack of local amenities. Unable
to fob off his questions, they had him nicked. He was released the
next day and the charges were dropped but not before the association
described anti-authoritarians (the guy is a known anarcho) as dangerous
subversives. Said subversives have since left and formed their
own group. Splitters!
TURN THE SCREWS
PROBATION SERVICE NEXT UP FOR AUCTION
In the pile em high flog em cheap fire sale that is
privatisation, everything is up for corporate grabs. Ever since
Michael Howard kicked off his prison privatisation scheme back in
the 1990s, corporations have been able to make a healthy profit
out of the prison population (now at a record 77,000 inmates and
rising). The government gets more prison places on the cheap and
the likes of Group 4 and Reliance get a guaranteed subsidy per prisoner.
Not only that, but the corporations get easy access to a handy source
of sweatshop labour within UK Plc. Prisoners slave away for less
than 30p an hour for the likes of Sainsburys, Argos, ASDA,
Debenhams, Wilkinsons and the Royal Mail.
Neo Labour is now looking to see how it can help its corporate
buddies make even more cash, this time from privatising the probation
service. One of the bidders to take part in a planned government
market-test is Group 4, infamous for the Yarlswood debacle
where violent treatment by guards led to a riot which culminated
in the burning of the centre to the ground. (See SchNEWS
419). And Group 4 have got plenty of experience of rehabilitation,
having recovered from been fined for incompetence and inappropriate
violence to prisoners on numerous occasions themselves! (See www.corporatewatch.org.uk
for more details on the ever-corruptible Group 4.)
There are 200,000 people under supervision on probation and the
Probation Service also runs community service punishments (how handy,
workers who have to turn up or get locked up!). But the real sting
in the tail is that private companies will be advising the courts
on appropriate sentencing. So the prison population
goes up and the longer you get the longer youll have to work.
Conflicts of interest anyone?
But were sure the prison profiteers will do a great job as
probationers, and offer the same sensitive highly qualified staff
as they do in prisons. Ex-long term prisoner Mark Barnsley of the
Campaign Against Prison Slavery (www.againstprisonslavery.org)
told SchNEWS, The Tories when confronted with a rise in the
prison population had to introduce half-sentence remission and only
put people in prison as a last resort. Labour doesnt have
to do that it can just keep building more prisons. As an anarchist
I dont care if Im in a private prison or a state one
but private prisons have a higher suicide rate, theyre just
not safe places to be. The problem is that theyre employing
minimum staff on minimum wages and making money from neglect.
SchNEWS OPEN DAY
We're undergoing a restructuring programme ready for privatisation.
We need writers, web heads, target focussed distribution operatives
etc. Reckon you can help? Contact us and book your place for our
training day on Weds 26th October @ 12 noon onwards.
DEMO©RA©Y OF IDEAS (pat. pending)
Ever since 9/11, the State has been scaring us with beard-wielding
terrorist bogeymen and used the opportunity to stamp down ever harder
on our hard-won freedoms of movement, assembly and action. UK plc,
which currently holds the Presidency of the EU, is trying to push
through something called the Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive
(IPRED). Intellectual property is about privatising
the world of ideas and knowledge, and stopping any unprofitable
dissemination or application of stuff outside of the control of
our corporate overlords - irrespective of whether the idea may be
quite simple, life-saving, or otherwise beneficial to humankind.
Corporate control of ideas has been made much harder by the internets
easy transmission and spreading of information and this has got
the big bosses worried.
Following on from previous failed attempts to turn even more of
European intellectual life over to shareholders (see SchNEWS
490), IPRED goes even further than before by including moves
to criminalise the previously civil offences of patent and copyright
infringement, as well as that favourite Neo Labour Orwellian-thoughtcrime
of incitement to infringe. Whilst echoing anti-terrorism
laws, IPRED would actually give police more powers of cross-border
arrest and asset-freezing than they have for combating terrorists
well them-in-charge know where the real dangers lie...
This means that a pharmaceutical company could imprison someone
for even suggesting making cheaper generic AIDS drugs and meanwhile,
Sony could prosecute more parents of children downloading music
or movies. The entire open-source software movement is under threat,
including those attempting to provide free alternatives to near-monopolies
like Microsoft, or those adapting free utilities for use by the
disabled. The laws will further stack the odds against small scale
innovation in favour of big corporate muscle, who can afford to
routinely copyright and patent every variation of any possible idea
they can think of in order to snuff out potential competition and
keep those maximised profits flowing.
Its no coincidence that those lobbying hardest for this to
become law are the industries who stand to profit from it.
* Keep an eye on the implications of this at www.fipr.org/intellectual.html
* The Free Software Foundation is attempting to mount a counter-campaign.
Get involved at www.fsfeurope.org/projects/ipred2
CRAP SPOOKING OF THE WEEK
A schoolkid in North Carolina got a bit more attention than he bargained
for recently when he submitted his work for class recently. His teacher
had set a project to take photographs that illustrated their liberties
as guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. So one kid took a photo of
himself standing beside a poster of George Bush, giving him the thumbs
down. He put the film into Wal-Marts for developing, who
then promptly informed the police. Suspecting subversion, the FBI
paid a visit to the school, confiscated the offending photograph,
grilled the teacher for a bit, then had a few patriotic words with
TOTAL WRITE OFF
Dont forget its the 24th Anarchist Bookfair this Saturday
(22nd, 10am-6pm). Its moved to another venue, The Resource
Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7, as it just keeps getting
bigger! It reflects the full range of anarchist groups, publishers,
and Kropotkin buffs trying to out-beard each other. Alongside all
the dog-earred manifestos, yellowing pamphlets, and self-indulgent
zines, there are the usual endless meetings and discussions on all
aspects of er, anarchism. SchNEWS will of course be there, desperately
flogging our merchandise, so come and have a chat and maybe give
us a donation for our revolutionary biscuit fund. Were also
chairing a talk on setting up a local newsletter, and if thats
not exciting enough, were showing the new DVD collection of
SchMOVIES from this year, including the DSEi Arms Fair special.
Other facilities at the bookfair include an all-day creche and
hot food. See full programme at www.anarchistbookfair.org
And then on Sunday in the same building as the Anarchist Bookfair
its the Freedom to Protest Conference. For years the state
has been cracking down on the right to protest (see SchNEWS issues
1-517). But whenever there have been oppressive laws, there have
been those who have fought back against them, which is what the
conference is all about: Any oppressive laws can be rendered
unworkable through protest, non-cooperation and defiance.
Sunday 23rd 11am-5pm. Admission free/donation. www.freedomtoprotest.org.uk
* Heres the latest bit of protest repression SchNEWS heard
about: Protesters from Survival International were thrown out of
Oxford Union for wearing offensive t-shirts. They were
there to question President Mogae of Botswana (himself ironically
there to talk about democracy) about the persecution of Kalahari
Bushmen, who have been thrown off their ancestral land (SchNEWS
514). The protesters wore t-shirts reading Botswana police
shoot Bushmen - in reference to the three Bushmen shot in
recent weeks. A spokesman for Survival International commented Oxford
University had learnt a few lessons from the Botswana authorities,
who routinely expel anyone who dares to challenge them. www.survival-international.org
BLESS THIS HOUSE
Housmans Bookshop is 60 years old next Wednesday. Londons
oldest radical bookshop has since 1945 been selling books and periodicals
covering politics, peace studies, current affairs, etc. as well
as fiction and more.
Theyve got a series of events to celebrate:
* Tuesday 25th 6.30pm: Talk by writer Andy Worthington on the legacy
of the Battle of the Beanfield where the police smashed the
traveller convoy going to Stonehenge in 1985 - with screening of
the film about it, Operation Solstice. (Read a review of Andy's
Stonehenge book in our review section see below)
* Wednesday 26th 6.30pm Claire Andrews will read from her book Legacy:
Recaptured Treasures & Lasting Memories of Caribbean migrants
in Britain After WW2, part of Black History Month.
* Thursday 27th 6.30pm: Kate Hudson author of CND Now More
than Ever will talk on the peace movements past and
* Friday 28th 6.30pm: Launch & celebration of the Peace Diary
2006 to celebrate Housmans 60th year of trading plus publication
of 53rd edition of their Diary and World Peace Directory. www.housmans.com
* On the subject of books, SchNEWS has a new reviews section on
our website covering anything from Chomsky to the Unabomber via
Batman; the use of violence in social movements to the use of urine
as a fertiliser (the endless urine/non-urine debate
) see www.schnews.org.uk/book-reviews
SchNEWS in Brief
- 29th October A Climate for Change - tackling the eco-crisis
& corporate power. A meeting to put together an action
plan to halt and reverse climate change and discuss strategies
to recycle capitalism in favour of an economic model
based on co-operation. 11am-4pm Dragon Hall, 17 Stukely
Street, London, WC2 (Covent Garden/Holborn Tubes) £5/£3.50
(inc.lunch) 07871 745258 www.aworldtowin.net
- Ladyfest is happening in galleries, clubs, coffeehouses
and more all over Brighton on Oct 20th-23rd. The event is open
to all, aims to give women a more visible presence in the community
and will cover everything from female ejaculation to silkscreening.
Look for posters about town or go to www.ladyfestbrighton.co.uk
or pop along to one of their Monday meetings in the Cowley Club,
London Rd at 6.30pm
- The 9/11 nutters are in town and theyre flogging books
too. Catch the conspiracy film 'Face the Facts: the Truth
about 9/11' and meet former spook David Shayler. 27th October
7pm, Brighthelm Centre, Brighton £5/£3.
- Are You Listening Charles Clarke? - There
will be four weekends of activity in Norwich Home Secretary,
Charles Clarkes constituency around the themes of
human rights and civil liberties. Things kick off on Friday 28th
with a Civil Rights March through town starting at 8.30am at the
Bandstand at Eaton Park and ending at 1pm at his office near Castlemeadow,
followed the next day at noon with a demo at CCs office.
For the rest of the schedule contact 01263-512049 or email@example.com
- 28th October 6pm Brighton Critical Mass if you
cant make it up to London for the big one then meet on the
centre of the Level
- The campaign to save woodlands at Titnore Lane from destruction
continues with a Vigil for the Death of Democracy, 2pm, Sat October
29 Northbrook College roundabout A259/Titnore Lane Durrington,
Worthing (5 mins Goring-by-Sea station). www.protectourwoodland.fsnet.co.uk
Heres one we privatised earlier
PFI projects were supposed to bring us economy and efficiency? Last
week action by London Underground staff brought the Northern Line
to a halt. Concerned that trains werent stopping automatically
when they ran red lights, staff defied bosses and stopped the trains
from moving altogether. All this highlighted how the lean efficient
capitalist beasts managing our public services are just as unwieldy
as the old bureaucracies but have the added bonus of being greedier.
. An off the rails project showed us just what capitalism with the
brakes off looks like.
So who broke the brakes? Nobody knew who was responsible. Under
part-privatisation one company, Tubelines is responsible for all
the maintenance work - it turned train maintenance over to ALSTOM,
a French multinational who in turn contracted out the upkeep of
the emergency braking systems. So subcontractors subcontract ad
infinitum, and each division cuts wages and shaves safety margins
in search of profits. When the system started to break down the
buck went round so fast it was invisible to the human eye. Even
the more farcical elements of old style nationalised industry (step
forward British Leyland), would find it hard to compete with this
game of pin the blame on the donkey.
Privatise the railways? You might as well privatise an elephant:
a PFI consortium could own the trunk, a murky offshore trust could
have the ears and an American multinational the tusks. The elephant
can then every now and again leave a steaming half-ton of shit behind
that doesnt belong to anyone
and the minimum wage taxpayers
can be given the shovels.
SchNEWS warns all readers... exposing your privates is always
an ugly sight. Honest.
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